A picture is worth a thousand words. That being said, all those words can get complicated pretty quickly. There are many factors to consider when choosing an image for a quiz. What image should you choose? Where do you find good images? Are you legally allowed to use the image?
This post is meant to cover the basics of choosing images for Sporcle. This is a helpful guide, but not a legal doctrine. If in doubt, be conservative and remember that Sporcle’s terms of service states that we have the right to take down anything that we believe violates copyright.
You may not upload, publish, post, distribute or disseminate any Content that, any form, is protected by intellectual property laws (or by rights of privacy and/or publicity) unless you own or control the rights thereto or have received all necessary consents.
OK, let’s jump in!
First – The Law
Again, this post isn’t meant to be an in-depth overview of copyright law. We’ve included a few handy terms down below, but remember that when it comes to copyright, err on the side of caution.
Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture (source: US Copyright Office).
Here are a few things to keep in mind when adding images to quizzes on Sporcle.
Do you own the image?
If you created the graphic or took the photo, you likely own the copyright and can do whatever you wish. The general rule of thumb is, if you make it, you own it…with some exceptions.
Is the image in the Public Domain?
Did you know that there are millions of images available for free? We will point you to some resources in a bit, but there are several sites that let you use high-quality graphics at no charge. Public domain images can be used for free and generally can be used in any way you want without attribution.
Make sure images you are using are not copyrighted material. We generally recommend against stock photo sites. In some cases, copyrighted content is fine to use within the domain of fair use, but always err on the side of caution.
Do you need to give some form of attribution?
When it comes to using images, you can ask the owner of the image or graphic whether you can use their image with attribution. If you have gotten permission (and can prove it) you are likely good to go. In many cases, the copyright owner is happy to grant permission because it gives their work more exposure…but you have to ask.
What is Fair Use all about?
Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances. Fair use allows for limited use of copyrighted material without authorization from the author of the creative work. In other words, fair use is a defense against a claim of copyright infringement but it has rules and limitations that must be considered.
To qualify as fair use, courts examine four criteria:
- The purpose and character of the use, I.E. is it for commercial nature or for educational (and nonprofit) purposes.
- The nature of the copyrighted work — courts tend to be more lenient when it comes to works such as biographies other than from fictional works like plays or novels.
- The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole — is the amount of material used is so small it can be excused as a fair use.
- The impact the use bears upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work — does the use deprive a copyright owner of income or a new potential market.
These are meant to be used as general guidelines when thinking of fair use. This does not in any way, shape, or form constitute legal advice. If you are looking for more about what is considered fair use, give this article from Columbia University a read.
In the end, make sure you are within your legal rights to use an image. There has been some great discussion on this over in Sporcle groups that is definitely worth a read.
Where Do I Find Images to Use?
Here is a shortlist of some of our favorite free image sites:
- Pixabay:Pixabay has high-quality images, over 1.4 million royalty free stock photos, and a great search engine. As a bonus, you don’t have to create an account to download a picture.
- Picjumbo: Picjumbo has easy navigation and extremely high-resolution photos (with no attribution required). This site also has a great collection of food shots.
- StockSnap.io: StockSnap has tons of great high-resolution photos free from copyright restrictions.
- Unsplash: Unsplash is another site that offers beautiful high-quality free images and photos you can download and use for any project. No attribution required.
- Freeimages.com: Formerly called Stock.Xchng, the first row of images are often paid images – but the images that follow tend to be entirely free.
- Pixnio: High quality, copyright friendly images, and no restriction for their use.
- GoodFreePhotos.com: A large Public Domain photo repository with high resolution free photos and vectors.
- MorgueFile.com: A community-based free photo site, and all photos found in the Morguefile archive are free for you to download and re-use in your work, be it commercial or not.
These days both Mac and Windows offer some rudimentary image editing tools. For those that can afford it and have the skills, Adobe Photoshop is the gold standard. If you are looking for a free, basic photo editor online, give Canva a try.
For all game types:
- Images should not be blurry.
- Don’t use images that are overly gory, violent, or sexual.
- Images shouldn’t have watermarks/logos/trademarks on them.
- Sometimes images have black lines or bars on the sides. Make sure to remove these or find a new image entirely if that is the case.
For Picture Click, Picture Box, Map, or Multiple Choice Quizzes:
- This isn’t specifically for the image, but if it’s a map/picture click quiz with shapes, the shape outlines should be nice and tight.
- Generally, images used in picture box/click quizzes should have similar backgrounds. Don’t mix white background images with non-white backgrounds. Keep them the same.
- For picture box quizzes, use images that are between 130 x 130 pixels and 150 x 150 pixels.
- Make sure images are clear. They should not be overly zoomed in, or zoomed out. There’s nothing worse than having to squint to see a movie scene or something.
- For map/picture click quizzes, you should be able to see the whole image on a screen at once.
- For picture box quizzes of celebrities or faces, everyone should be zoomed in basically the same amount. You don’t want one person to have a full body shot but everyone else just heads.
- If the image is a map, make sure the map looks good. Sometimes, we see maps that use strange colors, like neon green. Those get replaced.
- If you’re making a picture click quiz with random images, make them the same size if possible. If image sizes are too inconsistent, to the point the quiz looks ugly, we will replace them and make the images square.
- For multiple choice quizzes with images, make sure the images are the same size throughout the quiz. Ideally, they should be 275 x 150 pixels for answers. The image max for questions is 400 x 150 pixels, but as long as it’s 150 pixels tall, the width doesn’t matter as much (as long as it’s the same width throughout the quiz).
- The same rule about white vs. non-white backgrounds applies to multiple choice image quizzes as well.
For Slideshow Quizzes:
- Images should all be the same size. Ideally, this size would be 640 x 480 pixels. Every so often, there are quizzes where it’s practically impossible to find good images that are the same size. In that case, the images should be grouped in the slideshow by size, so that they go largest to smallest.
- They should either all have white backgrounds or none should have white backgrounds.
- Don’t mixed posed shots, promotional shots, and candid shots. Pick one type and stick to it throughout the quiz. This is especially important for Movie, Entertainment, or TV quizzes.
For quiz icons:
- Avoid using icons with white backgrounds.
- The icon needs to look good with both the full size on the homepage and the square icon that would appear on staff picks/quiz page.
- The icon shouldn’t be boring. People/animals/etc. are good. There should be something interesting to look at that draws the eye.
- Don’t give away an answer to the quiz in the icon. If the quiz is “Name the Oscar Winners”, don’t show a picture of Tom Hanks. Don’t even give hints in the icon; icons should be engaging and interesting, but they shouldn’t spoil the quiz experience.
- No over-cropping. For example, don’t cut off people’s heads, you should be able to see their hair!
- You should be able to tell what the image is. If the icon is supposed to be New York City, use a recognizable part of of the city.
Check out the articles below if you are interested in learning more about the best practices for using online images. And make sure to check out our other Quiz Creation Guides on the Sporcle Blog!
- Fair Use Basics
- Summaries of Fair Use Cases
- How to Legally Use Copyrighted Images
- Using Images on Your Website